Promise Zone


Inspired by lessons from the Harlem Children’s Zone effort to break the generational cycle of poverty, more than two dozen local public, private, non-profit, and for-profit organizations convened in May 2010 to assess the feasibility of creating a Promise Zone in South Madison. The vision, as was the case in Harlem, is to design a holistic place-based system of education, social-service and community-building programs to counter the negative influences of crime, drugs and poverty and help children complete college and go on to the job market. Within six weeks, this coalition of city and neighborhood leaders developed a proposed one-year planning model and requested $500,000 in funding from the U.S. Department of Education Office of Innovation. In this short time span, more than $300,000 of local in-kind support to the project was leveraged from 16 public and private agencies. While not selected to receive funding, the application scored among the top tier in the nation and was posted on the Dept. of Education website with Education Secretary Arne Duncan encouraging other public and private funders to invest in our project. Funding was recently secured to advance the planning initiative that was hoped for last year.

What Can Be

A Promise Neighborhood is a community of opportunity, centered around strong schools, that allow children to learn, grow, and succeed. Inspired by the model of the Harlem Children’s Zone, Promise Neighborhoods wrap children in high- quality, coordinated health, social, community, and educational support from the cradle to college to career.

Moving Forward

The primary objectives are to engage the myriad of stakeholders and residents in developing a neighborhood vision and creating a comprehensive plan to realize that vision. Key outcomes of the planning process will include: a community needs assessment, survey of neighborhood assets, and segmentation analysis; creation of a citizen volunteer network to inform our work; a system of educational programs and services across the age continuum infant through college integrated with accompanying family and community supports that significantly improve educational outcomes for children and youth; a package of literacy, GED, certificate and employment related programs and services with accompanying family and community supports that significantly improve the career trajectories for low-income adults; an integrated health and human services delivery model to pilot in our promise zone; an integrated communication and data tracking system among public and private community service agencies in the Zone; and a plan to integrate and enhance social connections, cohesion, and activities to promote pride and ownership in the Promise Zone.

Defining our Promise Zone

When the coalition convened last year, it identified census tracts 14.01 and 14.02 as the South Madison Promise Zone. Specifically, it identified the Burr Oaks, Brams’s Addition, Capitol View, and Leopold neighborhoods. The core schools serving this area are Lincoln and Leopold Elementary, Wright and Cherokee Middle, and West High Schools. In order to more effectively undertake our initial Promise Zone planning effort, it may be necessary to further narrow and refine our geographic scope. Regardless of the precise geographic boundaries, there are a myriad of issues that can be addressed and neighborhood assets that can be leveraged through the creation of a Promise Zone in the South Madison area.

Proposed Planning Structure

A 12-month comprehensive and inclusive planning process is proposed beginning in the fall of 2011. The planning structure is guided by a Leadership Team and a Citizen Promise Team. These two teams will provide direction to and receive recommendations from a group of Innovation Teams in key areas including Data/Evaluation, Philanthropy/Marketing, Community Engagement, Jobs/Lifelong Learning, Community Engagement, Early Childhood, K-12 Education, and possibly others. The mechanics of the planning process will be guided by a planning team that includes project staff and representatives from what were identified as the project’s Anchor Institutions. Project staff will include a Project Director, Project Coordinator, Policy Analyst, and Data Analyst.